My Big Adventure 18 Countries In 4 MonthsAuthor: Toni K N (More Trip Reviews by Toni K N)
Date of Trip: December 2008
My passion is travel and I took an around the world trip all by myself starting on Halloween, October 31,2008 and ending February 25,2009. It took me about a year to do all the planning, on my own,and that was being very flexible to overcome obstacles.
I am a Realtor and we all know what the last 2 years have been like. I have the pleasure of living in Fort Lauderdale which has had the distinction of being the worst market in the country so I had plenty of free time. I also own investment properties that I have had to subsidize and as I watched my hard earned savings fly away I decided to take this opportunity to spend some money on myself and live my passion before it was all gone.
I used my frequent flyer miles,220,000, to get an around the world ticket on Delta and their partners in Business and First Class. The rules of the ticket are that you can go in one direction....east to west or west to east. You cannot double back and there is a limit of 6 stops. If you land in one place and take off from another on the same continent it counts as one stop.
So I started in Dublin and then used other forms of transportation to reach Istanbul where I used my around the world ticket to fly into Moscow. From Dublin I flew on Aer Lingus....which I loved....to Venice Italy. After a day and night in Venice I boarded Costa Cruise Lines for a Greek Isle cruise.
The cruise visited Santorini, Rhodes, Mykonos, Bari, Croatia and Dubrovnik. The itinerary was awesome, the ship is very pretty and the food left a lot to be desired. This was a good thing though as I did not overeat and therefore actually lost weight on a cruise. Can you imagine that? I made wonderful friends on this cruise that I know will be in my life for a long time.
I had not planned where I was going after we disembarked back in Venice and received many suggestions from my friends on the cruise. I wound up taking the night train with a private compartment in first class to Vienna. The train ride was wonderful and I highly recommend this experience.
Upon arriving in Vienna I transferred to the subway which took me to the center of the city. I then visited a Tourist Office and was directed to a wonderful reasonably priced hotel. I loved Vienna with all it's beauty, fabulous architecture, culture and charming refined people. I was so fortunate to be there at a time when everywhere was decorated for Christmas and they had Christmas Markets set in the city center.
I took a day trip to Prague from Vienna and it was so much fun to ride through the snow covered mountains. We had just enough time in Prague for me to know I want to go back and explore on another trip.
From Vienna I took the train to BudaPest, Belgrade and then flew on a discount airline to Istanbul. On the train from BudaPest to Belgrade I met 2 fabulous women from Athens and the time flew by....again making friends to last a lifetime.
I loved the energy of Istanbul and was constantly on the move with new experiences that I will treasure forever. Along the way on the entire trip I did an e newsletter to my family, friends and clients packed full of details. I have been encouraged to turn it into a book and I am working on that.
From Istanbul I flew on Aeroflot, in my opinion the worst airline out there, to Moscow.The last 36 hours have been a roller coaster of emotions and thoughts.
Yesterday leaving Istanbul the airport was really interesting....you had to put all bags through security before you could check in for your flight. Long lines and I met a really interesting man from Denmark who not only helped me get my heavy bags on the counter ....he also engaged me in a very stimulating conversation about world conditions and politics. It never ceases to amaze me how involved everyone is in the US condition. He was telling me how encouraged Denmark is about Obama being our President Elect.
Next up.... checking in to Aeroflot...my Russian airline connection. Huge crowd...even in Business Class line. Very slow agent...finally through and she gave me a ticket to enter the Millennium lounge to have lunch....the worst food ever !!! I was hoping that's not what the food on my flight would be !!!
On line in passport control I ran into the adorable honeymoon couple from Mexico that I met on the Hop On Hop Off Tour. They are so cute and we exchanged cards and want me to contact them if I come to Mexico.
On the way to my plane the handle on my new carry on broke....my old one may not have been pretty but it has survived everything I put it through over the years. Like I've always said......pretty is not everything!
On the plane they had a really big business section and there were only 3 of us in business. Where were all those people in line ahead of me?
Landing in Moscow really started my imagination and frustrations going. Confusing airport to say the least !!! Cash machines that I had trouble figuring out....rude people....no help at all. Next I was negotiating with the Taxi driver....or so I thought...before agreeing on a fare. We went from 4500 rubbles to finally agreeing on 2000. The exchange rate is 27 rubbles to $1.......so you can see taxis are expensive here. We get out to the top where the taxi is....or I thought that's what we were doing....when he actually called another driver and car to come get me. Nice car...this driver does not speak any English and I have to pay the 1st guy and get a receipt. OK....I'm getting a little nervous and get in anyway. We leave the airport and all of a sudden the driver pulls over to the side of the road. Oh no......what now......he was just answering his cell phone....thank you God! We are driving down a very dark road that looks very out of the way to me and we are heading into the woods....ok....this is really it....I'm going to be left for dead in the woods!
I did not feel any better for at least 20 minutes....my imagination was working at full speed. Finally we were in a very well lit area and on what looked like a highway to me. As we drove into Moscow it started to get really beautiful....lots of amazing architecture and busy streets with people walking everywhere. Finally we reached Le Meridien National. I almost kissed the ground when we got there I was so relieved!
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